Zeppelin raids, Gothas and 'Giants'

Britain's First Blitz - 1914 -1918

Ian Castle looks at the World War One air raids on Britain - the First Blitz

40 (3)


12 March 1918


The first Zeppelin raid to reach Britain since the disastrous ‘silent raid’ of 19/20 October 1917 took place on the night of 12 March 1918. Five Zeppelins set out but thick cloud made navigation difficult. Most commanders believed they had travelled further west than they had.


Zeppelin L 54, commanded by Kapitänleutnant von Buttlar, dropped his bombs on a fleet of trawlers out of Grimsby. Between the initial sighting and the bombing, the trawlers relocated a mile or so to the north so all the bombs missed the fleet by a long distance. Presumably the cloud made observation difficult. After dropping his bombs, von Buttlar turned for home.


Kapitänleutnant Prölss, commanding L 53, reached the Yorkshire coast shortly before 10.00pm but appears not to have come inland. Prölss claimed to have dropped 3,000kgs of bombs but they presumably fell at sea.


The first to come inland, L 63, commanded by Kapitänleutnant von Freudenreich, crossed the Yorkshire coast at Hornsea at 8.30pm, although it appears likely that he believed he had crossed it earlier. Von Freudenreich reported bombing Leeds and Bradford, whereas he never passed far inland from the coast. L 63 was on a direct course for Hull at 8.40pm when an AA gun opened fire from the Marfleet. Seven minutes later the Sutton gun joined in. Von Freudenreich turned westwards and skirted around the north of Hull until turning to attack fom a position north-west of the city. However, from a height of between 16,000 and 18,000 feet, and with a thick layer of cloud further hindering accurate location, only six bombs fell within the city itself. The first bombs — one of 100kg and two of 50kg — fell in fields between Oak Road and the River Hull, where they all exploded harmlessly.  Another 50kg bomb exploded in a field between two railway lines: the Hull & Barnsley Railway and the Hornsea branch of the North Eastern Railway. The police reported no damage. Seconds later another 50kg bomb exploded on a railway embankment in Montrose Street. It badly damaged one house, caused lesser damage to others, destroyed a workman’s cabin, damaged a signal box and dug a hole in the embankment. A final bomb, dropped on allotments along Southcoates Avenue, damaging several houses, including smashed roofs, broken ceilings, gouges in walls and broken windows. Sarah Masterman, aged 58, died of shock brought on by the raid. Leaving Hull on a north-east course, L 63 dropped four HE and two incendiary bombs in fields at Sutton-on-Hull at 9.10pm, followed a few minutes later by 10 bombs in fields at Swine. None of these caused any damage. L 63 went back out to sea at Tunstall at 9.30pm.

Zeppelin L 62, commanded by Hauptmann Manger with Peter Strasser on board, came inland south of Flamborough Head at about 9.15pm, but her commander appears to have found navigation difficult as he remained in the area north of Bridlington for about 30 minutes. L 62 then followed a course that took her over Driffield at 10.20pm, north-east of Pocklington ten minutes later, circled around Bishop’s Wilton at 10.50pm, and reached Market Weighton ten minutes after that before heading towards Howden where the RNAS had an airship station. It appears, however, that Manger did not know he had a worthwhile target ahead as he reported that he attacked Leeds, which is about 30 miles west of Howden. As L 62 headed towards Howden, four AA guns opened fire and Manger steered away to the north-west and at 11.15pm turned north-east near the village of Seaton Ross where he began dropping his bombs. Thirteen HE bombs and 10 incendiaries descended around the village, mainly falling in fields, however, two that straddled the Black Horse Inn, which damaged the roof and outbuildings, broke all the widows at the front, damaged ceilings, tore off three bedroom doors and inflicted damage on eight other houses nearby, but no one suffered any injury. Moments later L 62 dropped four more HE bombs at the village of Melbourne where all fell in fields gouging craters up to 10 feet deep. Heading back to the coast now, L 62 passed out to sea at 11.40pm near Barmston.


Kapitänleutnant Ehrlich brought L 61 inland at 10.10pm after AA fire had repulsed three earlier attempts.  It appears that Ehrlich struggled to identify his position through the clouds and roamed around an area of Yorkshire between Hornsea in the east to Burnby, near Pocklington, in the west, and from Beverley in the south to Filey in the north, without finding any target. Although Ehrlich claimed to have bombed a ‘fortified place on the Humber’, no bombs dropped on land.


Low cloud hindered the searchlights and anti-aircraft guns throughout the raid. The guns defending Hull fired 139 rounds, while those on the south side of the Humber got off 30 more. The other guns in action that night in Yorkshire fired 290 rounds. The bad weather limited the RFC response too and only nine aircraft flew patrols. None saw the raiders.





Casualties:   1 killed,  0 injured


Damage: £3,474